Friday, June 8, 2012

Open Letter -- Protect Nutrition Programs

As Congress works to craft its FY2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill, we strongly urge you to support and protect nutrition programs, reject any proposals to cut or weaken the programs, and build upon the strong commitment to nutrition programs in the President’s 2013 budget request. While there are signs of economic recovery, sustained high unemployment and underemployment mean that the need for food assistance remains high. Funding and strengthening federal nutrition programs will ensure that vulnerable low-income families, children, and seniors continue to receive critical nutrition assistance to protect them against hunger, combat obesity, and improve nutrition and health.

Together, hunger and obesity pose two of the greatest health challenges of our time, both the consequence of inadequate nutrition. Nearly 50 million people live in households that struggle to put food on the table, placing millions of families at risk of hunger and poor nutrition. The long-term consequences are significant, both for individuals and our society as a whole. Food insecurity and poor nutrition reduce health and educational outcomes, decrease workforce productivity, and increase education and health care costs.

Fortunately, federal nutrition programs are an effective preventative investment that protect against hunger and promote nutrition. We urge you to adopt the following funding levels and policy proposals in the FY2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill:

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP helps put food on the table for more than 46 million people each month.  The average household has an income of only 57% of the federal poverty guideline and 84% of all benefits go to households with a child, senior, or disabled person.
§  Support SNAP as it continues to respond to the increased need for food assistance with timely benefits and provide nutrition education and other program services. Provide $5 billion for the SNAP reserve fund.
§  Restore the temporary increase in SNAP benefit levels provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that was cut to help pay for the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
§  Suspend for one year the harsh time limits on SNAP benefits for certain unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents.
§  Oppose harmful policy changes that would restrict eligibility, reduce benefits or make structural changes that weaken SNAP’s responsiveness.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
WIC serves low-income women and young children to age five, providing them with a nutritious monthly food package, nutrition education, healthcare and social service referrals to ensure that this at-risk population receives the quality nutrition and healthcare essential for healthy growth and development.
§  Fully fund WIC at $7.041 billion to provide monthly nutritious food packages to a projected caseload of 9.1 million low-income women, infants, and children. Monitor WIC caseload and food cost inflation throughout the appropriations process to ensure that appropriated levels will meet anticipated needs.
§  Provide $60 million for breastfeeding peer counselors to improve breastfeeding initiation and duration, $30 million for Management Information Systems/Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) funding to improve client access, retailer efficiency, and program integrity, and $14 million for infrastructure improvements.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
TEFAP ensures a steady stream of nutritious USDA commodities for distribution through our nation’s charitable food system, delivering some of the most nutrient-rich food that food banks distribute through pantries, shelters, and kitchens and providing support for storage and distribution.
§  Provide $269.5 million in TEFAP commodities for distribution to low-income people through food banks, pantries, kitchens and shelters. Monitor food price inflation throughout the appropriations process to ensure the appropriated mandated TEFAP indexing adjustment is provided.
§  Provide the fully authorized funding level of $100 million for TEFAP storage and distribution of TEFAP commodities and $15 million for TEFAP infrastructure grants.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
CSFP provides a nutritious monthly food package to nearly 600,000 low-income participants, primarily low-income seniors.  The CSFP food package is designed to meet the specific nutritional needs of the target population, combating the poor health conditions often found in food insecure seniors.
§  Fund CSFP at $186.9 million to support a projected caseload of almost 600,000 participants.
§  Provide an additional $5 million allow CSFP to serve six additional states with USDA approved state plans (CT, HI, ID, MD, MA, RI). 

Child Nutrition Programs
Child nutrition programs serve children in school, day care, after school, and summer settings, providing them with nutritious meals and snacks that fuel them with the energy they need to thrive in the classroom and on the playground.
§  Support and protect the integrity of the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to provide children with nutritious meals and snacks.
§  Provide $35 million for school meal grants to help schools upgrade their kitchen equipment to serve healthier meals, improve food safety, and support access to the school breakfast program.

Other Nutrition Programs
§  Provide $20 million for WIC farmers’ market vouchers for low-income women, infants, and children.
§  Provide $21 million for seniors farmers’ market vouchers for low-income seniors.
§  Provide $3 million for the Congressional Hunger Center better connect local anti-hunger solutions and public policy, working through the Bill Emerson/Mickey Leland Hunger Fellows Programs.
§  Provide $5 million for Hunger-Free Community Grants to support innovation and coordination in local, public-private anti-hunger efforts.
§  Provide $5 million for Community Food Projects to support community-based solutions to food security by connecting local farmers with underserved populations.

Coming at a time of record need and at a time when state and local programs have been slashed and the charitable system is stretched to the breaking point, strong federal support for nutrition assistance programs is critical for individual families and struggling communities across the country.
We strongly urge you to fully support federal nutrition programs so they may continue to protect low-income Americans from hunger and improve their ability to access nutritious, balanced diets.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Afterschool Alliance
AIDS United
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance
American Association for Health Education
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
American Commodity Distribution Association
American Heart Association
American Institute for Cancer Research
American Public Health Association
Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
Association of Jewish Family & Children’s Agencies
Bread For The World
Campaign for Better Nutrition
Center for Law and Social Policy
Coalition on Human Needs
Community Action Partnership
Community Food Security Coalition
Congressional Hunger Center
Covenant House International
Defeat Diabetes Foundation
Direct Care Alliance
Environmental Working Group
FamilyCook Productions
Farm Sanctuary
Farmers Market Coalition
Feeding America
First Focus Campaign for Children
Food Research and Action Center
Generations United
Gray Panthers
Hmong National Development, Inc.
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Federations of North America
Meals On Wheels Association of America
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Association for the Education of Young Children
National Association of Area Agencies on Aging
National Association of County and City Health Officials
National Association of Farmers Market Promotion Programs
National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs
National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities
National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare
National Commodity Supplemental Food Program Association
National Congress of Black Women
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women
National Council on Aging
National Employment Law Project
National Farm to School Network
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
National Hispanic Council on Aging
National Human Services Assembly
National Immigration Law Center
National WIC Association
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness
Promise the Children (Unitarian Universalist)
Public Health Institute
School Food FOCUS National Office
School Nutrition Association
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders
Share Our Strength
Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregational Leadership
Sisters of Mercy Institute Justice Office
Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior
Society of St. Andrew
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
Trust for America’s Health
The Alliance to End Hunger
The Salvation Army
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Union for Reform Judaism
United Way Worldwide
Wider Opportunities for Women
YMCA of the USA

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